#1 Penn State Invades St. John’s Arena on Sunday

February 7, 2013 0 comments

Hunter Stieber scoring a major decision could be a huge key to a Buckeye win on Sunday

In case you thought the road would get any easier for #6 Ohio State Buckeyes after wrestling duals with national powers Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois- you were wrong- arguably their stiffest challenge to date looms as the top-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions invade St. John’s Arena on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. (following a dual at Michigan which will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network on Friday at 6:00 p.m.).  Believe it or not, I think an upset is possible- which may be surprising considered the Buckeyes somewhat lopsided losses to Iowa and Minnesota.  In my view, being home will help, and moreover, Ohio State matches up better with Penn State than either of those other teams.  But there is zero margin for error, for an upset to take place.  Here is what to expect for Sunday’s dual, which will also be broadcast live on www.btn.com for those who live a distance from Columbus:

125- #12 Nikko Triggas vs. #2 Nico Megaludis.

We open with the battle of the Nikko’s (spelled differently). A year ago Megaludis shocked the nation by making the NCAA Finals from his #11 seed.  This year, he won’t sneak up on anyone, but based on his results, another finals appearance and even an NCAA Title is likely (he recently took 2x NCAA Champ McDonough into the overtime tiebreakers). The hot-and-cold Triggas had really seemed to step it up in January, but his recent 8-1 loss to Jesse Delgado was not encouraging. Regardless of which Triggas shows up, it’s difficult to see him winning here, though I don’t think he yields bonus points against the typically conservative Megaludis.

Penn State 3-0

133- #1 Logan Stieber vs. Jordan Conaway

Conaway- though still unranked due to a slow start- has been the “breakout performer” of the season for the Nittany Lions.  Kind of an afterthought at the start of the season for a team that also has Frank Martellotti and the redshirting Jimmy Gullibon at this weight, the redshirt freshman has stunned the wrestling world recently with an overtime win over then #3 Tyler Graff which he followed up with a win over then #8 Darryl Thomas.  However, in my view Conaway has been wrestling “over his head” on heart and guts, and against a machine like Logan Stieber, that won’t be enough.  So far this season nobody has come within ten points of Stieber, and my belief is that there are only about 5-6 guys in the nation who can consistently avoid bonus points against him this season (maybe not even that many).  Conaway isn’t one of them.  Stieber by fall.

OSU 6-3

141- #2 Hunter Stieber vs. Bryan Pearsall

This is going to be one of the key matches of the dual.  Pearsall is a solid competitor, but in this lineup, frankly he is the “weak link”.  With Penn State’s incomparable duo of David Taylor and Ed Ruth almost certain to get bonus points, it will fall to the Stieber brothers to get bonus points for Ohio State to offset that. Hunter Stieber has been unbelievable all season, and you can count on him to pile up 4-5 takedowns (or more) against almost anyone.  However, to get the major here, he will need to score back points at some point.  I think he gets it done as he has been putting opponents to their backs more lately, but it’s about a 50-50 proposition.

Ohio State 10-3

149- #19 Cam Tessari vs. #7 Andrew Alton

You can throw the rankings out at this weight. After the top duo of Jordan Oliver and Jason Chamberlain, anyone in the Top 20 can beat anyone else at this weight on a given day.  This is an extremely intriguing matchup to me- you’ve got two of the most “dangerous” wrestlers in the nation doing battle here, and it seems like someone is going to their back at some point. However, it’s the style contrast that makes this intriguing. Alton is one of the nation’s most powerful wrestlers, and is deadly with his cement mixer. Tessari is an incredible funk artist, counter attacker, and “thrower” who is a threat to put his opponent on his back from any position, perhaps most of all off the bottom.  On the other hand, neither is noted for leg attacks, and conditioning has been a major issue for both.  If Tessari’s conditioning is where it needs to be now, with the pace he sets I could see him outlasting Alton and catching him for a third period fall as Jake Sueflohn recently did- something that would completely change the dynamics of this dual if it happened.

Andrew Alton has been a big name to Ohio fans (and fans nationally) since he came into Ironman as a junior in high school and handled Collin Palmer.  That said, he’s not unbeatable- as mentioned, as the recent loss by fall to Sueflohn showed (should be noted the Sueflohn also has a 7-5 win over Cam this year) Any way you look at it, Cam Tessari has placed 4th at NCAA’s and despite his huge reputation, Alton has yet to place (reached the Round of 12 as a true freshman and then redshirted last year).  For reasons that are hard to articulate, I think Tessari’s style matches up well with Alton’s and he gets the win here- but I “expect the unexpected” in this one.

 OSU 13-3

157- #19 Josh Demas vs. #5 Dylan Alton

This is a rematch of two bouts last year won by Alton. In the dual meet, I watched Alton completely control the action in a 4-0 win that wasn’t as close as the score.  However, Demas closed the gap significantly at Big Tens, losing just 3-2.  Both of these wrestlers have turned it up in the second half of the season and are better than their ranking indicates in my view- in fact, both were very close to beating #1 ranked St. John.  Based on last year’s results, I forsee Alton winning another one takedown match.  That said, Demas has been wrestling so many highly ranked guys tough lately, I feel like he’s due for a breakout win. If he got it here, that could change the dynamics of this dual considerably.  Alton must be the pick, however.

OSU 13-6

The legendary David Taylor returns to Ohio for Sunday's dual

165- Mark Martin vs. #2 David Taylor

True freshman Martin faces one of the all-time Ohio greats here in David Taylor. Martin has given up bonus points only once this season, but he’s facing a guy that pinned his way through NCAA’s last year and shows no sign of slowing down.  Hopefully Martin can avoid the fall.  Taylor by technical fall.

 OSU 13-11


174- #7 Nick Heflin vs. #5 Matt Brown

This will be the first meeting of Heflin and Brown, and it’s as close to a “tossup” as a match could be.  Looking at common opponents- both were dominated by #1 Logan Storley, both lost a very close bout to #4 Evans that came right down to the wire, and both beat 2x All-American Jordan Blanton.  Heflin has a talent for making guys wrestle his style and winning a one point match (or in overtime rideouts) and I think that’s exactly what happens here.

OSU 16-11

184- Cody Magrum vs. #1 Ed Ruth

Now that’s he’s healthy, CodyMagrum I think is going to be getting better every week. That said, he’s facing an absolute buzzsaw in Ed Ruth. NCAA Champ Ruth has only gotten better moving up to 184, most recently scoring a technical fall over NCAA All-American Ihnen and first period fall over Tony Dallago (who beat Magrum 2-1).  The question is not whether he scores bonus points, but how many- and I think that a major, a tech, or a fall are all about equally likely.  I’ll split the difference and call it a tech.

Tie 16-16

197- #13 Andrew Campolattano vs. #3 Quentin Wright

Call me crazy but I think there is the slightest chance of an upset here.  Both of these guys have a sort of Jeckyl-and-Hyde record of performances.  When Camp comes out and attacks for seven minutes he is a top five guy in the nation at this weight (as evidenced by his complete destruction of #6 Meeks at Vegas) but then other times he forgets to show up it seems.  Wright is an NCAA Champ and 2x finalist, but he’s been known to wrestle the occasional dud match, so much so that the year he won NCAA’s he came into Big Ten’s as the #8 seed.  If the Buckeye sophomore comes out and attacks, his power could pose problems for Wright, who far from a big 197. That said, Wright has been much more consistent this year than in the past (as shown by his unbeaten record), though he did lose by fall in the All-Star match against #2 Matt Wilps (which doesn’t count officially on a wrestler’s record). I remain somewhat unconvinced that he is as much of a force at 197 as he was at 184, but he must be the pick here.

Penn State 19-16.

285- #12 Pete Capone vs. #17 Jon Gingrich/Jimmy Lawson

If it comes down to this final match I feel pretty good. While the rankings of these wrestlers is fairly comparable, Capone is so consistent that I am confident he gets it done.

Tie 19-19

This may seem like an optimistic projection for Ohio State against #1 Penn State to many observers, but a couple of thoughts here.  First, we have seen over and over again that this team wrestles better at home than on the road, and the same may be true for Penn State considering their recent duals with Iowa (they lost 22-16) and Illinois (Penn State shut them out at home).  Second, I am not disputing here who has the better tournament team- it’s just that in my view Ohio State matches up pretty well with the Nittany Lions in a dual.  Third, in all fairness, the 149 and 174 matches are complete tossups (and most observers will probably pick Alton at 149) so switching them to Penn State would make it 25-13- an outcome that is equally likely to my projection, and it’s possible that Gingrich could knock off Capone as well.

If the matches split five-to-five as I have projected here, it will of course come down to bonus points, and there are four wrestlers who are likely to score them- Taylor and Ruth for Penn  State, Logan and Hunter Stieber for Ohio State.  The three most prolific scorers of bonus points in the nation without question right now are Taylor, Ruth, and Logan Stieber, and all three have almost sure-thing bonus point opportunities since they are facing unranked opponents (Magrum is technically unranked, but he beat out #15 Kenny Courts to make the Buckeye lineup but Courts remains the one who is ranked). Since Hunter Stieber doesn’t score bonus points as often as the other three (nor does anyone else for that matter) the edge is likely to fall to Penn State-  if you had to pick, but the Buckeyes have a legitimate shot.

All in all, it’s going to be a fantastic dual!  Be sure to either attend the match in person at St. John’s Arena on Sunday (February 10th) at 4:00 p.m., or if you a distance from Columbus as I do, to watch it on the Big Ten network online at: www.BTN.com!

Ohio State at Michigan on Friday

While OSU vs. Penn State on Sunday at St. John’s is the key match of the weekend, first the Buckeyes travel to Ann Arbor to face the Wolverines on Friday.  This match will be live on the Big Ten Network on Friday at 6:00 p.m.  Michigan fields a respectable lineup (and one that should be much improved in years to come based on recent recruiting classes) but cannot seriously push Ohio State at this juncture in my view.  Here are the prospective matchups:

125 – No. 12 Nikko Triggas (17-7; 9-3; 4-2) vs. #15 Sean Boyle (18-6; 6-2)
133 – No. 1 Logan Stieber (16-0; 7-0; 1-0) vs. Rossi Bruno (9-12; 5-8)
141 – No. 2 Hunter Stieber (24-0; 11-0; 6-0) vs. Camryn Jackson (9-4; 8-2)/Mike Hillock (0-3; 0-3)
149 – No. 19 Cam Tessari (12-6; 6-3; 5-1) vs. #10 Eric Grajales (16-5; 11-1)
157 – No. 19 Josh Demas (15-6; 8-4; 2-4) vs. Collin Zeerip (0-4; 0-4)/Michael Carpenter (3-8; 1-4)
165 – Mark Martin (16-9; 6-5; 2-3) vs. #9 Taylor Massa (20-5; 10-1)
174 – No. 7 Nick Heflin (10-2; 6-2; 4-2) vs. #10 Dan Yates (16-5; 9-3)
184 – C.J. Magrum (10-3; 4-3; 2-2) vs. Chris Heald (9-13: 2-5)
197 – No. 13 Andrew Campolattano (15-7; 5-3; 3-2) vs. Max Huntley (12-9; 7-4)
HWT – No. 12 Peter Capone (17-5; 9-3; 4-2) vs. #19 Ben Apland (14-6; 6-2)

OSU will be heavily favored and likely to score heavy bonus points at 133,141,157, and 184.  Michigan will be favored at 165.  Up for grabs are 125, 149,174,197, and 285, though OSU is a slight favorite at most of those weights.  Marquee matches of the dual will be Cam Tessari vs. Eric Grajales (Grajales is 2-0 against Tessari currently) and Nick Heflin vs. Dan Yates. I’d look for Ohio State to take seven bouts (plus or minus one) with a boatload of bonus. Be sure to tune in for both, in what will be a great weekend of College Wrestling!